Helping Sports Kids Take Responsibility for Their Confidence

Confidence is the single most important asset young athletes bring to sports. However, too often, kids expect confidence to simply come to them from positive results—rather than proactively working to build their confidence.

“My basketball player seems to lose confidence immediately if he misses a few shots at the beginning of a game,” one sports parent tells us. “He starts playing safe, which never makes him play better.”

This is a classic example of a young athlete waiting for confidence to come his way. Sports parents and coaches need to help kids proactively build their confidence. This means helping kids to take responsibility for how confident they feel.

When kids feel confident, they believe in their abilities—even before they step on the court or field. They don’t experience worries, distractions, and doubts. This makes it easier to feel totally immersed in their sport. And that makes them play well!

Sports parents and coaches should help young players understand that athletes are responsible for creating their own confidence. They can’t wait around for confidence to come to them. For example, some kids, like the one mentioned above, begin a game wanting immediate results—such as getting the first hit or point. That makes them feel confident.

Instead, it makes more sense for kids to use confidence-boosting strategies before and during a game. For example, they might create a pre-game routine that helps them focus on their strengths and abilities. This is called a “confidence resume,” which is made up of a list of their positive qualities in sports. They should review it before and during a game or performance. These are just a few of the strategies we suggest.

When they take advantage of such strategies, they’re taking control of their confidence. Remind your players that confidence should come from within. That’s why it’s called self-confidence. Your kids should not have to depend on what you say to boost their confidence on game day.
They shouldn’t have to depend on an immediate goal or basket.

They should be patient, persistent, and open to learning about what it takes to improve their mental game. Helping your athletes improve their mental game does not show weakness on their part. You want athletes to embrace the mental game and not worry about what others might think. And they should be having fun—not worrying about the score. That’s what will ultimately make them happier and more successful in sports.

Award-winning parenting writer Lisa Cohn and Youth Sports Psychology expert Dr. Patrick Cohn are co-founders of The Ultimate Sports Parent. Pick up their free e-book, “Ten Tips to Improve Confidence and Success in Young Athletes” by visiting

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